Empowering young Palestinian women. Reality or dream?

December 26, 2019

Empowering young women does not begin with granting them financial support, empowering women begins with hearing them, with including them and, most importantly, with working with them as partners and decision-makers, not beneficiaries.

Working in the field of development in Palestine for more than ten years, half of those years were spent on working with Palestinian women to empower them economically through training them on how to start their own business.

Palestinian women have always taken the initiative to talk about the obstacles they face managing their own projects. One of the greatest challenges Palestinian women face chasing their dreams is the social pressure they struggle with each and every day.

Women of Palestine are fighting two occupations

The first is the Israeli occupation, which does not hesitate in destroying not only their lands, but their dreams. The Israeli occupation violates their most basic human rights. These women have been fighting this occupation for more than 70 years.

The second occupation is the patriarchal system that they have to deal with and face each and every single day. A cultural heritage which gave birth to all kinds of social stigmas and expected gender roles stand in the way of women making a living for themselves and their families. Women struggle to prove that they are capable and able to be financially independent despite the challenges they face.

Everyone knows that the economic empowerment of women, the ability of women to make an economic change, is a great opportunity to strengthen their economic and social status. At the level of the state economy, as women make up half of society and thus half of their productive capacity and given the direct impact of women on the second half of society, it is imperative that they contribute to the development process on an equal basis with men.

Despite the fact that women make up almost half of Palestinian society, despite their educational opportunities, and hold of many ministerial positions, membership of the Legislative Council, senior administrative positions and the judiciary – their contribution to the labor force remains limited due to their low level of work experience and discrimination.

As a result of the social legacies,  many Palestinian families are not allowed to go to work, in addition to matters related to women, such as marriage, pregnancy and childbirth.

Women inclusion in the Palestinian work force: current issues and challenges

The political participation of women in the Palestinian context is gaining a special status due to the specificity of the Palestinian political situation.

The Palestinian situation reflects a special situation for the political participation of women in terms of the percentage and type of participation. It should be studied according to the political context and specificity of the Palestinian situation.

The political situation in Palestine is in a gray phase: not an independent state, with all the entitlements necessary for political practice in terms of participation in elections or the rotation of power, the separation of powers and, most importantly, the existence of sovereign authority.

The gray phase makes it difficult to judge the political participation, in general, and the participation of women, in particular, through the indicators of political participation provided for in political science books or what is prevalent in other countries, such as the percentage of voter registration, voting in elections, or the percentage of women. It would be fair to judge women’s participation through participation in the national struggle in general, whether formal or informal, whether institutional or non-institutional.

Palestinian participation in the work force is the lowest compared to the Middle East. Unemployment rate amongt Palestinian women is one of the highest in the world in general.

This percentage has many reasons , but the first one is the political instability of this country, The Palestinian economy is fully linked to the Palestinian cause and is the product of a long and complex existential conflict. The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 made the Palestinian economy enjoy self-rule, which replaced the direct and full Israeli authorities over the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Palestinian National Authority (PNA), This does not mean that the Palestinian economy has become a free and scalable economy.  Restrictions on movement and free trade were imposed, and Israeli settlements continued to spread in the Palestinian territories.

Land and farms have been largely destroyed, fighting over resources has continued and this area has been deprived of sovereignty: it has no boundaries, there is no free trade, no control of the crossings, no currency, not even an army.

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the Israeli economy and policies, with financial assistance from Arab countries, EU and USA. This economy is also characterized by a high proportion of workers in Israel and abroad. World Bank warned on April 4, 2019 of a complete collapse of the Palestinian economy as a result of Israeli policies against the Palestinian economy.

Within my work as trainer I decided to collect reasons why women are not empowered and what challenges they face in their community, by asking 200 women to fill in a questionnaire. The answers below done by the number of occurrences per reason for each group why the participation of women in the labor force is so low these were the results: as indicated in the figure. 13 times the reason for Palestinian customs and traditions has been restored to the challenges women face in entering the labor market or setting up a private enterprise.

Recommendations

  • NGOs can work on generating money on their own instead of depending on outside donations.
  • Strategies of the NGOs should have comprehensive programs that include women and men and in the different communities, due to the important role of men in supporting the participation of women in the work force. Not only do they need to include women, but men and stakeholders as well in the creation of the strategies that target vulnerable women in Palestine.
  • Inclusion of women in chamber of commerce rooms / empowering and activating the role of women in decision making positions.
  • Before starting a project, have a deep understanding of the community and its needs; More follow-up is needed, not just give machines, trainings and leave. A long term and systematic support are needed

This article was written by Fadi Eshtayeh, Consultant, International Development Advisor, and founder of Loesje Palestine. The views presented in this article do not reflect the position of Active Development Association ADA.

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